Author Peter Moskowitz’s new book on gentrification, How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for the Neighborhood, outlines how local governments cede their power over residents’ lives to private interests.
The book brings some much-needed clarity to thinking about a slippery concept. “While urban renewal, the suburbanization of cities, and other forms of capital creation are relatively easy to spot (a highway built through a neighborhood is a relatively obvious event), gentrification is more discreet, dispersed, and hands-off,” he writes.
Moskowitz adds to the growing canon aimed at understanding and explaining the process of gentrification, and he not so subtly suggests that while gentrification naturally brings some improvements to a city,including more people and money, it also frequently kills some cultural traditions and diversity, the precise characteristics that make cities so dynamic and desirable in the first place.
In each city, there are specific problems and circumstances that helped the process along, but it’s striking how similar the choices made by politicians, business leaders, and developers and their effect on poor really are across the country.
Gentrification, in each of these cities, dismantles and displaces existing neighborhoods and communities in order to make way for new residents who are mostly whiter, and always richer, than those who predate them.
From the book’s promotion:
The term gentrification has become a buzzword to describe the changes in urban neighborhoods across the country, but we don’t realize just how threatening it is. It means more than the arrival of trendy shops, much-maligned hipsters, and expensive lattes. The very future of American cities as vibrant, equitable spaces hangs in the balance.
Peter Moskowitz’s How to Kill a City takes readers from the kitchen tables of hurting families who can no longer afford their homes to the corporate boardrooms and political backrooms where destructive housing policies are devised. Along the way, Moskowitz uncovers the massive, systemic forces behind gentrification in New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York.
The deceptively simple question of who can and cannot afford to pay the rent goes to the heart of America’s crises of race and inequality. In the fight for economic opportunity and racial justice, nothing could be more important than housing.
A vigorous, hard-hitting expose, How to Kill a City reveals who holds power in our cities-and how we can get it back.